Sunday, February 17, 2019

MAYAN Gets New Rail Caps & Sheet Adjustments


Sheeting To The Rail

Mayan was originally built with some form of inboard sheeting for her jibs, fisherman staysail, spinnaker, and gollywobbler. That was the tradition back in the '20s when Alden designed her and that is the way the Tewie's Dockyard built her in 1947. But over the decades whatever sort of sheeting she had disappeared and was replaced by the newer idea that one run a track along the top of the rail allowing the sheet points to be adjusted by sliding a car along the track. You can see the bronze track and cars with a sheet lead through them in the picture on the right. The genoa sheet is lead to the block ahead of the mainmast shrouds and the advance staysail is lead to the block closer to you aft of the shrouds.

There were two problems with this approach on MAYAN. First, she is a beamy boat. Alden made this choice when designing her so that she could carry more passengers in comfort and so she'd stand up without heeling much in a blow. Her broad beam makes her quite stiff despite the fact that she has only a shallow and relatively light keel. The difficulty is that the beam is wide enough that the sheeting angle is too far outboard and as a result one can't trim the sails in tight enough to allow MAYAN to sail to windward at her best. After doing a bit of calculating, we determined that it would be best to have the sheet points moved about two feet inboard from the rail to get the correct sail shape.

Second, when sails flog or flap they jerk quite hard on the blocks which as riding on the rail. Similarly, when sailing in heavy weather there is a tremendous load put on the sheet and therefore on the rail when gusts hit or when a wave top fills the sail with water. In that case, the bulwark frames and bulwark planking have to carry the load. This is something they weren't designed to do. In the first few years of our sailing MAYAN hard in the strong winds of San Francisco Bay we discovered that the bulwark frames had been moving a little, indicating that they were overloaded. 

In the picture above you can see MAYAN beating past Alcatraz Island in nearly 30 knots of wind still carrying her largest jib. the strain on the rail in these conditions is substantial and well beyond the use she had seen in her earlier life in S. California. It was time to do something about it.

Sheeting Inboard

Once we'd decided to move the sheeting inboard we started exploring various methods. Some recommended simply moving the track off of the rail and attaching it to the side deck, where there is plenty of space. As someone who has had both little toes broken by banging them into objects mounted on the deck, I was completely unwilling to clutter up MAYAN's side decks with bronze tracks with sharp edges and cars running on them. We turned to the oldest way of attaching the sheets and adjusting their angle to get the sail to set correctly. Our guess was that this was used on MAYAN when she was built. Returning to this old technique is particularly interesting because fixed sheet points with barber haulers used to just the sheet lead is now the very latest technique used on the fastest racing boats.

The first step was to remove the track from the teak rail cap. Once that was done we took a good look at the wood, which we believe was installed sometime in the '60s, and decided "While we're in here" we might was well put new rail caps on the boat so we can varnish them. Age has rendered the old teak so badly damaged that we couldn't bring the wood back to a level that would support varnish, and the number of wood plugs we'd need to put in was astounding. So, we removed the rail caps and Wayne announced: "I still have the teak I ordered in 2004 when we rebuilt the hull. It's ready to go." as he wandered off to start locating the raw planks of teak for the new rail caps in the wood shed.




New Rail Caps

(We'll get back to the inboard sheeting once we get the rail cap completed.)

Once all the rail caps had been removed, which required removing hundreds of wood plugs and backing out the bronze screws, we set about filling all the holes in the bulwark and the bulwark frames. The tops of some of the frames had some minor water damage which was treated with epoxy and then all the frame ends were brought up to the correct height with a hard compound of epoxy and filler.

As is typical of Wayne, as soon as the rest of us went to work on the rail cap, he dragged a large teak plank into the shop, built a form of the curve of the transom rail cap which stretches across MAYAN and arches up in the center, and then clamped the raw teak plank to the form. "What's that for?" I asked. "This will let the teak plank get used to the idea that it's going to be bent like that for the next thirty years." Wayne replied with a grin. We lifted the plank clamped to its form onto a shelf in the back of the shop and set about the rest of the work. When we retuned a few weeks later, it was already "used to the idea" of being bent and didn't even try to straighten out when we pulled off the clamps. 

Once templates had been made and the teak milled and rough sawn to shape, the joints were cut between the sections of the rail cap. The picture on the right shows a locking scarf. Three things are important about the way Wayne does this. First, there is the lock in the center of the scarf, which keeps the wood from moving fore-n-aft as it swells and shrinks with moisture changes and as the hull of the boat moves under load.

Second, at each end of scarf he turns the cut to intersect the edge of the rail cap at about a 50° angle. This makes the joint sides thick enough that the thin side won't splinter away during sanding or in the event that something like a block or or oar bangs into the rail cap. 

Finally, in four places along the run of the scarf two inch pieces of bronze all thread will be glued into both pieces of the rail cap from the joint side. This eliminates the need for bolts covered with wood plugs to be inserted into the curved sides of the rail cap. Plugs on rounded surfaces, like the edge of a rail cap, have a bad habit of coming out over time. It's good to avoid them if possible.

With the top edge of the bulwark heavily coated orange anti fungal primer the rails start to work their way forward from the transom plank. The rail cap expands to round the shrouds. In the picture on the left you'll notice that the rail is wider as it goes past the mainmast shrouds. The rail cap is set down over the chainplates and caulked into place once screwed down. 

Before being screwed in place, most of the rail was shaped with a series of router bits and then sanded to a 150 grit finish while the planks were still on the bench. This saves a tremendous amount of back breaking labor when compared to doing the sanding once the wood has been mounted on the boat. 

The process of cutting, shaping, sanding, and fastening the rail caps went relatively quickly. Within a week all the easy parts were screwed down and ready to be finished. But, as is always the case, the difficult fitting came at the corners. 

Here are Wayne and Garrett working the complex joint between the transom rail cap and the starboard side rail cap. Like the locking scarf, these joints were reinforced with two inch lengths of bronze all thread which requires more careful assembly but much less work later on.

In addition to the two large sections, each corner of the rail cap has a triangular piece which allows the rail to sweep gracefully from the side to the transom. Fitting this was Garrett's challenge. He did a terrific job and learned a few tricks from Wayne along the way.

The most difficult part, by far, was the tip of the bow. You can see it on the left. Again, the joints were reinforced with bronze all thread and glued with epoxy. But the curve of the rail, the sweep of the sheer, and flare of the bow all gather together at this point causing each piece to have sides which were far from square to anything.

After an afternoon of careful fitting, Wayne applied the glue and clamped up the pieces with bar clamps, "c" clamps, a special jig he cut from some scrap, and a trailer load tie-down strap. It all held and was aligned perfectly in the morning when all this bondage was removed. 

Because there need to be flat surfaces to clamp against at every scarf and joint, a great deal of hand work was now required to shape the exterior of the rail cap where these occurred. Now came days of that back breaking hand work with everyone pitching in to get the shape just right.

Once shaped the finish work started. In the picture on the right you can see Garrett helping to sand the rail as each coat was applied. 

We're taking a new approach with this varnish stack. At the bottom on the raw wood are two coats of thin sealant. It penetrates the wood and stabilizes the natural oils in the teak. Then we apply three coats of West 207 special clear epoxy. What you see in the picture on the right is the shine of the second coat of epoxy. While difficult to sand, the epoxy is extremely tough and will resist chafe far better than traditional varnish.

Finally, we applied 5 coats of a classic spar varnish to provide UV protection for the epoxy and because it yields a beautiful shine. Because the jib sheet tracks have been removed from the rail, one person can sand the entire rail cap in one day. This is more than twice the speed of anyone who had tried it, especially me.

Now back to the Inboard Sheeting 

With the rail caps nearly complete, Garrett and Rubin set about installing the deck plates which will hold the eyes and snatch blocks for the sheets. In the picture on the left you can see the bronze pad with its removable eye screwed in, upper left. It will be let into the deck. You can see the diamond shape dent which has been cut into the teak to match the bottom of the pad. It has been sealed with epoxy to prevent rot and the bronze pad will be covered in dolphinite to further protect the wood.

Once the pad is pressed into to the teak deck, then the bent stainless steel plate is taken below decks and clamped in place. The holes for the retaining bolts for the pad are drilled using the pad as a template, then through the stainless steel plate. Once drilled, the holes in the stainless are threaded to accept the mounting bolts from the bronze pad. The stainless plate has been pre-drilled and is then thru-bolted to the deck beams ahead and astern of the pad. Once assembled, this construction is extremely strong.

These pads were located approximately three feet aft of the known sheet point for each sail. Then approximately three feet forward of the known sheet point, another pad was installed. Fortunately, this spacing resulted in being able to re-use a number of pads for different sails. As a result, the side decks have a pad approximately every six feet and these pads can manage our entire inventory of sails.

In addition, the pads serve as terminations for the running backstays for both masts.


For each pair of pads assigned to a sail the aft-most pad carries a snatch block which accepts the sail's sheet. the forward pad carries a barber-hauler with a low-friction eye spliced into the upper end. To protect the varnish and more importantly the sailors aboard, the eye in the end of the barber-hauler is run through a soft vinyl tube as shown in the picture on the right. This is expected to reduce the damage done when the sheet is flogging and the eye is swinging around the leeward side deck. 

The lower end of the barber-hauler is secured to the pad's screw-in eye with a hobble splice. This splice, which was become quite popular with the adoption of high strength Dyneema single braid lines, works in a manner similar to a line with a rolling hitch tied around it. When the line is relieved of load, one can slide the hobble to make the line whatever length is required. Once the load is reapplied, the hobble will not slide. Aboard MAYAN we mark the barber-hauler lines to that the crew can preset the hobbles to the correct position for each sail.

Of course, adjustments of the jib lead position do require that the load be removed from the jib sheet using this technique, but that was also true of the bronze track and cars which this system replaced. We also sail with a 6:1 handy-billy on deck. It's quite useful for tasks like pulling the jib or staysail sheet down while one adjusts the barber-hauler.

So far, this system has works quite well. We used it while competing in the Jessica Cup in San Francisco Bay and found it to be reliable and easy for the crew to understand. However, one problem was discovered, with the sheet leads inboard where they belong for the best sail trim, the sheet runs directly over the signboards and running lights on the foremast shrouds. Naturally, we found the lights dangling from their wires and bits of the signboards missing entirely. Not everything goes according to plan, we'll need to relocate the signboards to a place out of the line of fire. The fact that the signboards were damaged is great evidence that we've finally got the sheets in the right places, looking on the bright side.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

MAYAN, foreground

Mayan's Progress

For over two years MAYAN received the able ministrations of Wayne Ettel, master shipwright in his boatyard in Los Angeles. As a result, I've collected the various short bits of progress into one post to make it easy to avoid all this boat building stuff if you wish.

First, we wish to thank Paul Reck for building the model of MAYAN on the left. She's now on display at the St, Francis YC as a part of the club's collection. Paul did a wonderful job and we are thrilled to see her take her place amongst so many beautiful models.

Model building is a skill which amazes us. The patience and care that it takes to construct a tiny version of a boat or ship is significant and rare. The model Paul built was constructed the way MAYAN was, with a keel, stem, sternpost, horn timber, floor frames and frames. Then deck beams and deck planking. The hull was tight planked caravel fashion, as was MAYAN originally. The rig shown in the model is of MAYAN as a transitional schooner, with a gaff foresail and a marconi mainsail. This is the way she was built and the rig we are returning her to. More about Paul here.

While We're In Here.... 

To review, during our 2016 Master Mariner's Regatta we noticed that the cockpit floor was flexing quite a bit as our three 250+ pounders came aft to haul in the mainsheet; we do not have a winch on the mainsheet and it takes all three of them at a leeward mark or during a gybe to make progress hauling in the mainsheet. This prompted a reservation at the Wayne Ettel Boat Spa, which is anything but a "spa". But Wayne is the shipwright who rebuilt MAYAN's hull and deck in 2005 and re-built the interior for us in 2014.

We had known since our initial purchase survey that the cockpit was the only remaining piece of deck from MAYAN's original construction of oak frames, iron nails, and caulked decking. As a result, it had been suspect for some time. After removing the water maker and a few other bits, an exploration of the underside of the cockpit had Beau shaking his head and crawling out with a piece of frame in his hand. He had simply broken a large piece of the frame away; it was rotten. We sailed MAYAN carefully from Santa Cruz to LA, see the earlier post about winds steadily above 40 knots and significant seas, and after the StFYC Commodore's Cruise Wayne's crew went to work on her. 

The first step was to remove the cockpit, a process which took a week and resulted in some discoveries. We have had fuel quality problems for quite a while, and were looking forward to cleaning out the tanks. Only accessible when the cockpit is removed, we found that not only were they badly polluted, but they were also slowly leaking in various places. Out they came. To remove them the main engine exhaust system had to come out, and while we're in here we might was well do that right. This phrase would be repeated many times....

Iron sick beam ends
Iron Sick deck beam
It was easy to see why the beams holding up the cockpit floor were flexing. MAYAN had originally been built with iron nails and they cause what it called "iron sickness" in the oak beams. It's clearly visible in the beam on the left. it also showed up as holes in other beams, no trace of the original nails, just weakened wood with the stain of iron running through it.

Corroded fuel tank
Once the leaking fuel tanks were pulled from under the old deck, it became obvious that they were far worse than we'd imagined. One tank like the photo on the left occupied the space under the cockpit seats on either side, and then a small day-tank to port. Nearly every joint and weld was slowly oozing diesel fuel. While the tanks had clean-outs, which can be seen in the picture, the only way to get to the clean-outs was to remove the cockpit and then remove the tank. We won't be doing it that way in the future.

I think that "while we're in here" should be engraved on a bronze plaque just above the Engine Room entrance! The list grew and grew and grew...... Ultimately, we ended up with a yawning hole in MAYAN where there used to be a cockpit, fuel tanks, and the main engine exhaust. In the photo below you can see Wayne just after we completed removing the fuel tanks. The rudder head is just to the right of his left elbow and we've tossed a sheet of plywood onto of the floor frames so we can have a place to stand while working. Now, to start putting things back together!

Wayne Ettel in the hole that was MAYAN's cockpit

Fuel Tanks

Over the years the expectations for fuel consumption have gone up and up. Originally, MAYAN had an sixty horsepower gasoline engine and a fifty gallon fuel tank. That would push her along at about 5 knots at full throttle and at cruising speed she could travel for about one hundred miles. Of course this assumed there wasn't a headwind or any sort of seas. When out cruising, this meant that one couldn't rely on powering anywhere. The engine was primarily for getting in and out of port and short distances when it was completely calm. There was no refrigeration or heat, no electric lights or navigation instruments, certainly no expresso machine or microwave!  Things have changed. 

We had previously replaced what was left of MAYAN's internal ballast with larger batteries, bring her capacity up to 1,400 Amp hours. We had also installed a hydroponic diesel heater, microwave, expresso machine, refrigeration, RADAR, navigation system, AIS, etc.... All this is considered "normal" in a modern boat MAYAN's size, although almost all of it is entirely hidden from view, leaving the sailor with the illusion that they are sailing in the 1920s. Sometime in the 1970s a 130 horsepower MBZ diesel had been installed, which is capable of moving MAYAN right along at a cruising speed of 7 knots, but with the old fuel tanks she only had a range of about 90 miles. It was time for more fuel.
We also had reservations about the size of the cockpit well. It simply held too much water when a boarding wave came along. The solution was to make the cockpit seats wider. This made the cockpit foot well smaller, the space for the new fuel tanks larger, and the cockpit seat wide enough for people to sleep on deck if they choose to. A triple win! In the picture on the right you can see the new planks which made the seat wider and more comfortable.

While we were at it, there's that phrase again, we decided to increase the size of the secondary sheet winches. In the photo on the left you can see the large primary winches, Barient #35 size. The original secondary is the Barient #22 at the far right in the photo. Between the two original winches are the Barient #28s which we bought from a Cal-40 owner, they were original equipment aboard those wonderful boats back in the '60s when they were built. We repurposed the Barient #22s to upgrade the halyard winches for the spinnaker and fisherman staysail halyards.

We also decided to relocate the fuel fill plate while we were at it. These used to be located in the cockpit seats, and when the weather got rough  a pool of water would sit atop the fill plate. Naturally, this lead to salt water getting down into the diesel fuel and allowing the algae to grow in the fuel tanks. A terrible problem we had been fighting since we bought the boat. 

By locating the fuel fill plates on top of the winch islands there can't be any standing water atop them, it's easy to wipe up spills without staining the teak, as it's varnished up there, and it's much easier to get the fuel hose to the fill plate without banging into the cockpit combing. All great features of this new locations. 

With the fuel tanks approaching completion, the fill lines cut in and the new winch mounting bolts installed. Garrett started doing the dry fit of the new cockpit prior to varnishing and installation of the inset panels. 

Garrett is popping out of the hatch in the cockpit floor which allows access to the prop shaft and rear side of the main engine. It also provides a tremendous amount of air flow through the engine room when one has to work on the motor in hot weather. The cockpit floor is built of plywood covered in epoxy and carbon fiber, substantially stronger than MAYAN's old cockpit floor even when it was new.

In the upper left you can see the rudder head and the cut out in the cockpit floor around the horn timber. The wheel box will eventually go over this and hold the steering gear. 

Much of the fuel tank construction was performed by Garrett. They are built of carbon fibre and epoxy, a material vastly superior to welded metal. Of course, they would look terrible if they were exposed and spoil the feel of the 1930s, so they'll be completely hidden under the seats and cockpit sides. On the right you can see the two carbon fuel tanks with all bronze fittings. There are baffles internally to avoid slapping sounds while underway. Also, unlike the old tanks which had a stand-pipe to pick up the fuel above the sludge in the bottom of the tanks, these tanks are built to have the pick up at the lowest point in the tank so that any sludge is immediately transferred to the traps and filters where it can be removed.

Once all the cockpit bits were installed, it was time to add the teak grating and decking, the portholes which allow fresh air into the engine room, the engine instruments, and a lot of varnish before we re-installed the wheel box, wheel and binnacle. 

There's a wonderful tradition with Alden schooners. Every one of them that I've been aboard has a port hole which opens from the outside and leads into the engine room. At first I didn't understand the purpose of it opening from the outside. Then I read a article in an old Rudder magazine in which Alden described being aboard an 1920s fishing schooner far out at sea. A fuel line had leaked and caused a fire in the engine room. The only way to get to the fire to put it out was to open the hatch in the deck at the top of the engine room. When they opened the hatch, the fire got a lot more air and the flames roared out through the open hatch. Eventually, the crew managed to get buckets of water down the hatch and put out the fire. But, from then on, every Alden design has a port hole opening from the outside so that one can push the nozzle of a fire extinguisher into the engine room without opening a hatch and feeding massive amounts of fresh air to the fire.

With her new larger fuel tanks, MAYAN now has a range of over 500 miles without reducing speed to improve fuel consumption, and while running the refrigerations, heating, microwave, and espresso machine. You have to have the espresso machine running!

In the next post we'll go into various other projects that were the result of following the "While we're in there" creed including new rail caps, new jib sheeting system and a new samson post.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Passage to Southern California

MAYAN winning her class in 2016 Master Mariner's
Old Boats Need Love 

But work and family obligations tend to push boat projects back, and back, and back. After two years of sailing MAYAN around Santa Cruz and San Francisco, racing her hard, making a list of things we wish were different, it was time to get busy and address some issues. 

For example, it was time to remove and pack up the last components of the water-maker aboard MAYAN. Water-makers are great devices that make fresh water from salt water by pushing it through a membrane at extremely high pressure. This is something that would have seemed magical to anyone from the golden age of sail, along with diesel engines, GPS, and email by radio. But today water-makers are rather standard aboard cruising boast.

Once the water maker membranes were removed and the hoses pulled out, I set about removing the plywood they’d been attached to. Darn! There are never “good” surprises on a boat. This time, hidden by the membranes and their mounts, there were some rotten deck beams beneath the cockpit. Laying on my back I broke a few 2” pieces off of the deck beams with my fingers. Time to sail back to Wayne Ettel’s boatyard! MAYAN needs a new cockpit floor.

A passage to Southern California

Getting MAYAN to Wayne's boatyard in Southern California resulted in five of us meeting aboard MAYAN in Santa Cruz Harbor at 0700 on a beautiful late June morning. Our crew was: Gene Sofen, Alex Rickabaugh, Lance Burc, Dick Watts, and me. It’s always a joy to have shipmates you can trust. It lets a skipper sleep well!!  We left the harbor at 0900 to an oily 4’ swell from the south and no wind at all. But… the forecast was looking “sporty”. 
In addition to a MAYAN Spa Date at Wayne's boatyard, we intend a bit of cruising in the southland. The St. Francis YC Commodore's Cruise for 2016 will be from Newport Beach to various spots on Catalina. Stacey has never seen Catalina, and there is no better way to enjoy the island than aboard a boat. I (Beau) grew up spending hundreds of weekends sailing to Catalina and have sea chests of memories of my times there with my family.
MAYAN at Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island, circa 1970s

MAYAN is no stranger to Catalina. While David owned her she made a number of trips to the island including one in which he and his band-mates completely cleaned out the grocery store at Avalon, having decided to go to Mexico after a few beers and realizing that they'd no provisions aboard.  As happens in every port with enter with MAYAN, I am certain someone will row up and announce: "I've partied on that boat!" (We will post about our cruise in a week or two.)

As we left Santa Cruz and headed south to Lover's Point, the middle of Monterey Bay didn’t disappoint us. There was sea life everywhere. I’m always surprised at how thrilled I am seeing the humpback whales breach, and how a pod of porpoises always make me smile as they romp up to MAYAN and start surfing her bow wave. This has been a BIG YEAR for whales.

Gene Sofen driving us south of Lover's Pt.
With the weather forecast including reasonably strong winds off of the coast north of Point Conception, we set the double reefed main, main staysail, fore staysail, and the yankee. The yankee is our smallest jib, flies from the tip of the bowsprit, and is made of heavy cloth. It loves a blow. 

We did feel a little silly for the first few hours, all reefed down and rolling slowly along against the SW swell. But by 1300 the wind was up to 25k from the NW and MAYAN was moving nicely at 8 knots. 

By 1500 the wind was up to 30k, and we lowered the main. By the 1600 watch change the wind speed was 35k and a bit beyond. The NW chop had developed nicely and was doing odd things as it crossed with the SW swell. As the wind steadily built we struck the fore staysail, then at 1700 we struck the main staysail. 

The wind speed was now a steady 40 knots with an additional 5 to 7 knots in the gusts. The NW chop was now truly magnificent as it crossed the SW swell. It was getting a little damp aboard. When the wave trains crossed the peaks were amazing, some over 18’. One decided to pay us a visit and filled the cockpit nicely! So much for dry boots!

From the left, Beau Vrolyk, Alex Rickabaugh, and Gene Sofen
MAYAN handled the breeze and bumps beautifully. Since rounding Pt. Sur we’d all been sailing hooked into the jack lines as the water sloshed around us across the deck. As the sun set we settled into the night watches, expecting the wind speed to moderate after mid-night. Another failed forecast. When Alex and Lance handed off the watch to Gene and Dick at 2000, I checked the wind instruments. Average wind speed for the previous hour had been 43 knots. Peak wind speed recorded was 51 knots. “It’s breezy out here.” Dick announced as he climbed into the cockpit. No kidding!!

MAYAN was romping through he snot and loving it!

A 15' wave rolling by, Pt. Sur in the background
As the waves would rise up behind her broad transom MAYAN would rise and rise until they washed around her. Accelerating to 12 or 14 knots, she’d create a thunderous bow wave and then the wave would pass her by. She’d gently sink into the trough and await the next wave. It was hypnotic. I sat in the cockpit watching the waves slide under her over and over again. In a more modern design, we’d have been planing at the speed of the waves, but MAYAN is far too heavy to plane. Instead, she gracefully lifts her stern, surfs a bit, and lets the wave pass with a roar. 

As the dawn grayed the sky about an hour into the 0400 watch, Gene and Dick and I sat in the cockpit entranced by the racing waves and steady 40 knot winds. The entire crew had adapted. We’d expected the wind to die off after mid-night, but it continued to howl in the rigging. Around 0630 Gene started kidding with Dick about setting the spinnaker. A 40k breeze had become our new normal. 

MAYAN's course from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles
Deciding to take advantage of the strong breeze to push us along to Los Angeles. We headed for the west end of Santa Cruz Island, where the wind in the Santa Barbara Channel would last the longest. The day passed as MAYAN continued her gentle rolling gate in the large waves and by dinner time we were abeam of Anacapa Island. Finally, the strong NW winds faded, we set the main staysail to steady us, and started the engine. With the watch on deck genuinely giddy with the simple pleasure of not having the coffee blown right out of their cups, MAYAN’s big old MBZ diesel moaned along through the night. We didn't want to arrive in Los Angeles too early, so we throttled back and made turns for 5 knots, planning our arrival at 0900. It felt as though MAYAN were crawling along, but the worst night underway is better than the best night ashore.

Powering the final run to Los Angeles. From the Left: Alex and Lance Burc
We were abeam of Los Angeles Light at 0905 and were off of Wayne’s boatyard at 0930. A civilized time to arrive on a Saturday morning. The strong breeze had let us make Los Angeles in 48.5 hours. The distance travelled over the water was about 350 nautical miles, and MAYAN had comfortably carried us along at an average of about 7.2 knots. “We sure seemed to be going faster than that!!” was the general impression of the crew. 

What we learned about MAYAN is that she is deceptively comfortable below decks even in 15 to 18 foot waves and 40+ knots of wind. So much so that various crew members would put their heads above deck and say: “I’ll be back in a minute.” appearing later wearing much heavier cloths, hats, and boots. 

Secondly, we found that MAYAN is amazing at climbing up over steep waves without letting (much of) them aboard. John Alden did a great job. Third, we found that trying to drive a displacement hull like MAYAN’s above her hull speed is dumb. She starts to fight the helmsman. Keeping boat speed below 9 knots made for a much easier passage. Hey, we’re cruising here! 

Finally, we learned that when running off in a breeze it’s best to have the center of effort well forward, pulling MAYAN by the nose, and the centerboard fully up allowing MAYAN to do her lovely sliiiiiiide sideways down the face of steep waves. This passage was the most wind and largest waves we’ve ever experienced with MAYAN, she made it look easy. As a result, we’re happily planning trips to far away places knowing that MAYAN will have little trouble taking us through the snotty bits. 

While in LA, MAYAN will spend a few months at Wayne’s “boat spa” getting her various bit renewed and improved. After two years of sailing her, we’ve decided to change a few thing and continue putting MAYAN back to the way John Alden designed her. We’ve concluded that Mr. Alden really knew a few things about the way that schooners should be designed. Once MAYAN has had her spa treatment, we’ll cruise her in southern California before bring her north again to Santa Cruz in the fall, and once again race and cruise her in Santa Cruz and San Francisco. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Master Mariner's Race, San Francisco Bay, 2016

The fleet at Encina YC after racing
A few times a year the classic boat community on San Francisco Bay gathers to celebrate their lovely old boats with a friendly race. The grandpa of them all is the Master Mariner's Regatta. It's an event that has been run on and off since 1867, well before the more famous America's Cup race. Its origin was to raise money for the widows and orphans of sailors lost at sea.

Today marine industry companies still sponsor competitors, and folks rarely admit to the side bets our ancestors used to brag about. This year MAYAN was thrilled to be sponsored by Latitude-38, our local sailing magazine. Thankfully, there aren't many sailors lost at sea these days, but the comradery and fun of pushing classic wooden boats around the SF Bay in a breeze have carried on, as has the philanthropy.

The crew of MAYAN gathered at the StFYC docks early on Saturday morning on the 28th of May. Twenty-five strong and ready to sail. Some, the veterans of other races, guided the new crew to lines one simply doesn't find on a modern boat. Peak and throat halyards were pointed out, the Gollywobbler was tied into stops, and the art of flying trapezoidal sails was explained. Finally, the skipper took a few minutes to take the crew through a safety review and a preview of the strategy for the race. "Two primary rules." were announced. "First, keep the people inside the boat. Second, keep the water outside of the boat. If we do those two things, everything else will be a lot more fun."

Our course was the traditional Bay Tour style shown on the right. We would start between the StFYC "A" mark and the GGYC "X" mark, heading north to Little Harding buoy. Leaving it to port, we'd then sail upwind to Blackhaller buoy and leave it to port as well. From there it was downwind to Blossom Rock buoy, but a strong flood would encourage us to gybe out to the middle of the bay for the favorable current. After leaving Blossom Rock to port we'd sail a broad reach almost due north to Southampton Shoal and leave that mark to starboard. Once around we'd retrace our track to channel buoy "R4", sailing on the wind again, leave it to port, and sail a broad reach to the east of Treasure Island to find the finish line. This was measured as a 15.6 nm race course.

Lance, Chief Data Officer
For those who haven't sailed on San Francisco Bay, the wind fans out from the Golden Gate. (On the left of the chart above) This means that a wind direction of 270° at the start will have shifted to about 240° at Little Harding, and a wind direction of 280° at Blossom Rock will have shifted to at least 220° at Southampton Shoal. This, combined with a similar fanning out of the flood tide, means that sailing the rhumb line is almost never the fastest way to the next mark. Fortunately, we had two great navigators aboard. Stan Honey on deck and Lance Berc as "Chief Data Officer" manning the navigations computers below. (Hey, just because we're a 69-year-old schooner doesn't mean we're not up to date with all the latest navigational technology ;) This team allowed the helmsman (Beau) to focus on sailing the boat and delegate the details of where to drive the boat.

Starting a race on a 70,000 lbs schooner is all about maintaining boat speed heading into the starting line. Fortunately, the start was set as a beam reach and we could enter from the west end of the line. This meant we could get MAYAN moving nicely on a broad reach and make a nice smooth turn towards the line at the appropriate time. Synthia Petroka, our foredeck boss, let us know we were about four seconds late to the starting line. We'll have to work on that for next year!!
Skip Allen

As we gybed towards the starting line the crew set the large advance staysail, under the watch full eye of crew-boss Skip Allen. Grinding in the genoa and advance staysail kept the cockpit crew busy as MAYAN turned north onto a beam reach.

For those of you who've sailed on schooners, this will be no surprise. As the genoa and the advance drew full and by MAYAN accelerated to full speed and simply took off across the bay at 8.5 knots, leaving the other boats who shared our start in our wake.

LYDIA (left) and MAYAN at the start
Crossing the flood tide is always complex. On San Francisco Bay the flood starts first along the City Front, where the starting line was located. Then, as the boat sails north, she will sail into less flood and even a little residual ebb tide. Finally, as we enter the deeper water near Little Harding buoy the strong flood current will re-appear. At each of these tidal transitions MAYAN's leeway will change. To sail the shortest possible course, the heading of the boat must be adjusted to the new current. The chatter between the Navigator and the Chief Data Officer was continuous, with updates on the compass course the helmsman should steer being adjusted every few minutes.

From the left: Beau, Jeff Lawson, Stan Honey
As we approached Little Harding buoy on a port broad reach, the boats which started earlier were returning towards us on starboard tack. This made the combination of avoiding the oncoming traffic, which had the right-of-way, and continuing to sail the straightest possible course to the mark challenging. Fortunately, everyone kept a sharp look out and there weren't any close calls. Again, the absolute trust that the helmsman had with his crew meant that he could focus on sailing fast and avoid the distractions of looking around for the on-coming traffic.

MAYAN made a clean port rounding and beat towards Yellow Bluff under genoa, main staysail, and full mainsail. With only 25 knots of wind, we were short on sail area, but we've learned that setting the large advance staysail forces us to sail so low that we can't make up for the low angle with better boat speed. (More in a future post on how we plan on fixing that.) Knowing that MAYAN isn't weatherly and that there was a 3-knot flood tide in the middle of the Golden Gate, we took two port tacks which put us near Pt. Cavallo before we struck south towards Blackhaller buoy.

Blackhaller buoy with Pt. Cavallo in the background
As we rounded Blackhaller buoy and gybe set our spinnaker and advance staysail, there was some discussion about how close we came to the buoy. "Not to worry," the helmsman remarked. "The only thing that touched the buoy was the spray from our bow wave."


As the sloops with their symmetrical spinnakers ran close ashore down the City Front, MAYAN with her schooner rig was forced to sail out towards Alcatraz to keep moving and in the hope of finding a stronger flood tide. We found it and managed to pass a few more boats as we rumbled along at 8 to 10 knots.
Nadine Franczyk trim, Dick Watts grinder

It is always deceiving, sailing downwind on MAYAN within the flat waters of San Francisco Bay. The water looks choppy in the strong Bay winds, but the complete lack of swell means that MAYAN stands up straight and hardly moves as she plows along. With our boat speed steadily above 8 knots and a 2-knot favorable current, Blossom Rock buoy was coming up fast. Watching Nadine trimming and Dick grinding the spinnaker sheet, I was struck by the crew sailing the ponderously heavy MAYAN as if she were a small boat. It was great. We ground down a few more competitors.

The foredeck crew
The leg to Southampton shoal was too tight for the spinnaker, so the foredeck crew set the genoa and doused the chute. The sign of a great foredeck is that it's silent. Synthia, with the help of Sally Honey, Liz Kroft, Gene Sofen, and Paul Manning made it look easy. No drama, no yelling, just sails up and down right on time.

For those who've not worked a foredeck that includes a 14' bowsprit, this is no easy feat. No roller furling, everything is on hanks. Drop a sail from the bowsprit, it's under the bow. Lose the spinnaker, you've yards of shredded nylon. This team made it all look easy!

Our navigation team let me know that we couldn't lay the R4 buoy from Southampton Shoal mark, so we made a smooth rounding on to port and tacked back to starboard once we'd settled everything down. Discovering that we were still not laying R4, we took another port tack up towards Pt. Blunt before tacking when we were certain that we'd fetch the next mark. Then things began to get interesting....

Peter Mattsson inquiring why they hadn't tacked
As we approached R4 we noticed that the cutter BRIGHT STAR had struck the buoy and was slowly moving to windward of it while inspecting the bowsprit and hull for damage. At the same time, the ketch PEGASUS was approaching the mark on port and was focused on the injured BRIGHT STAR. Despite repeated hails of "Starboard" from MAYAN, PEGASUS was showing no signs of either turning to pass astern or tacking to avoid us.  Finally, when it was clear that PEGASUS wasn't going to give way, we crash tacked MAYAN to avoid a collision. One of our crew endeavored to find out why PEGASUS hadn't tacked or ducked, using the best of polite sailor language. ;)
MAYAN's track near mark R4

At one point the two heavy boats were only five feet apart, but calamity was avoided and the crew spun MAYAN around and eventually rounded the mark. PEGASUS did her penalty turn and not only apologized when we reached the dock but provided the crew with enough drink tickets to stand a full round for all hands. Everyone was aware of how close we'd come to serious damage, a lesson for us all. It is amusing to take a look at our GPS track as we sorted out our schooner rig following the crash tack. (right)

Elsewhere on the race course this day two boats did collide. The smaller was dismasted and the larger had her bowsprit broken. All these boats are large, heavy, and difficult to maneuver. If we have one cautionary statement it is: "Leave more than two boat lengths between all boats." It is simply too risky to cut things close.

Injured BRIGHT STAR (left) being passed by MAYAN
With R4 behind us, it was a broad reach in 25-27 knot winds to the finish. This is MAYAN's strongest point of sail and she loves a breeze. She started to rumble!  BRIGHT STAR, PEGASUS, JADE, and ELIZABETH MUIR lay ahead of us. We passed BRIGHT STAR first, making up the four minutes we'd spent sorting ourselves out at R4. Then, slowed by their penalty turn, we caught and passed PEGASUS.

MAYAN by 18" for the win!
There was less than half a mile to the finish line. To leeward ELIZABETH MUIR had become pinned to leeward of RUBY and was struggling to break free. As MAYAN overhauled them both ELIZABETH MUIR broke through and accelerated rapidly. But MAYAN managed to rumble by and get the gun by only 18". It was a hold-your-breath finish. The first three boats were only separated by four seconds!! Racing doesn't get much closer than that.

Cheers were shouted, beers were opened, and MAYAN sailed on to Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda to collect the Dead Eye trophy for first in Marconi 1.

Four men on the main sheet
Stacey and I couldn't be more pleased with the way the entire crew sailed. New hands and old, everyone pitched in and brought MAYAN home safely and into first place in class. We've learned that MAYAN loves a breeze, and she could have used a bit more this day, but with a breeze comes hard work. Glancing over my shoulder after I called for a bit more mainsail trim, I had to smile when I saw that it took four strong men to gather in that last six inches of the main sheet. We really do need to get a winch on that line!

Thank you to everyone aboard! Stacey and I really appreciate the great effort!

The crew: Alex Rickabaugh, Amy Manning, Carol Gordon, Chris Hofmann, Dick Watts, Elizabeth Anathan, Gene Sofen, Jack Gordon, Jeffrey Lawson, Lance Berc, Lisa Corsetti, Liz Croft, Nadine Franczyk, Paul Elliot, Paul Manning, Peter Mattsson, Sally Honey, Serge Zavarin, Skip Allen, Stan Honey, Synthia Petroka, Tom Lewin, Will Campbell.

Photo Credits: Liz Croft, Will Campbell, Serge Zavarin - Thank YOU!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Catching Up



We have not been sailing MAYAN much this winter. Storms filled the Santa Cruz Harbor mouth with sand and even with her centerboard pulled up, she was trapped. The hard working crew on the dredge finally caught up a month ago and we were free to set sail and enjoy a beautiful springtime. As always, the early trips bring out the gremlins and MAYAN certainly has her share. Our wind instruments failed, the fuel system needed attention and who left all this stuff sitting around where it would fall over when we sailed?

Our first event of the season was taking the El Toro sailors from the Santa Cruz Yacht Club (SCYC) out for a day sail. These are our youngest sailors, from about 8 to 14, and as they formed up on the dock preparing to come aboard we were struck by their excitement. The El Toro is an 8' pram (picture on the left) that is often the first boat a kid is allowed to sail on their own. A tough and surprisingly seaworthy craft, she takes good care of her sailor. Our Jr. El Toro team usually sails on a lake, and for many of them, this would be their first trip out onto the open ocean. 

,Twenty-five strong, the kids streamed aboard and started to explore MAYAN. We were also joined by eight of their parents and three of MAYAN's typical crew. We're always amazed that a crew this size simply disappears aboard and it doesn't seem crowded. After a quick safety briefing, we got underway and there were some exclamations of joy as MAYAN's bow lifted to the first swell at the harbor mouth. I'm too old encrusted to yell as a wave lifts the bow, but it's always a great feeling. 

Once the lowers were set (mainsail, main staysail, and fore staysail) each kid got a chance to take the helm. "I can't see where I'm going." exclaimed one of our younger sailors. So a watch was set on the bowsprit (see picture on the right) to call out if any boat or ship were to be in our path. The first thing heard was "Porpoises!" and ten small sailors rushed the foredeck.  Then "Whale!" As our small crewkids worked the wheel one particularly little girl couldn't put on more weather helm, it was just too hard to turn the wheel. Without pause she simply climbed up on the pegs of the wheel and bounced, moving the wheel to the right position. This kid is a sailor!


With the line at the helm formed up, each sailor got a chance to sail MAYAN for 15-20 minutes, perform a gybe and generally sail wherever they wanted to. The looks of incredulity were replaced by big smiles as we told them they couldn't hurt MAYAN and she would simply go wherever they pointed her, provided it wasn't straight up wind. To convince a few of them that they really couldn't do any harm, we did a few circles with the lowers slowly swinging from tack to tack and gybe to gybe. Even the parents relaxed as they realized that nothing terrible was going to happen.

As we sailing along I explained to the kids that schooner rigs were developed by working sailors who wanted a weatherly rig that could be sailed by a very small crew. The fishermen of New England deserve the credit for our modern schooner rig. Each day fishing on the Banks the crew would be dropped off in their dories as the schooner sailed a large slow circle under main staysail alone. Only the ship's cook and ship's boy were left aboard to tend to the ship, which was well over 100' long. At the end of the day, the boy and the cook would slowly sail around picking up the dories, their cargo and their crew. Aboard some schooners the skipper would bring his family along. They'd take on the job of sailing the ship while the men were fishing. After years of development, these two masted schooners became easy to sail and could stay at sea through the gales and storms of the north Atlantic. 


Once MAYAN's diminutive crew had settled into a routine of waiting for their trick at the helm and catting with their friends. They looked for a bit of fun/mischief to get into. It was wonderful to see them find a game I played as a kid and my children played when they were aboard. One kid will jump down the boobie hatch (the fore hatch for those who aren't schooner sailors), then dash aft down the alleyway, through the galley, across the saloon and up the main companionway into the cockpit. Then race forward to repeat the process. As some of the crew ran 'round the boat, others sat down with one of our regular crew, Alex, who taught them how to re-pack an inflatible lifejacket.  Cruising on a large stable platform, like MAYAN, changes sailing. There's time and space to indulge other activites beyond just sailing the boat, and there's little as nice to see as kids in the share of the fore staysail learning a seamanlike task.

As the day faded we returned our small sailors to the dock and said good bye. It was wonderful to see MAYAN do such a great job at her appointed mission. We chose her because we've grand children coming along and we wanted to provide a way for them to learn seamanship and go voyaging with us. It's looking like MAYAN was a great choice.

Two weeks later we hosted the Scholastic Sailors from SCYC. These are the high-school juniors and seniors who normally race Lasers, FJs, and small keel boats - all quite athletic forms of sailing. Unlike the El Toro sailors, this crew immediately took over the foredeck, leaving their parents and our crew in the cockpit alone. Teenagers, they're beyond needing us.

As one of their parents dashed up in a RIB, they all lined up for a quick photo, then set to work hoisting the lowers and the outer jib. Initially we had a bit more wind, so we tucked a reef in the mainsail to avoid any drama. Of course, having done that, the wind immediately fadded away and left us slowly cruising along.

We shared the day with the Moore-24 Pacific Coast Championship, which was particularly fun as one of the Moores, MERCEDES, was crewed by Scholastic sailors. MAYAN did a small sail-by to encourage the crew. They are the Moore with the red strip in the picture to the left.

MERCEDES represents a second generation Moore sailing family, kids who grew up at the Club, and who are now making their place in a fleet born in Santa Cruz. It's great to see.